I don't know the exact date that wah guitar overlaid with dramatic brass and strings went from being cool to kitsch, but it was a sad day. It's a gorgeously vibrant sound, and Shaft was its finest moment. Unfortunately, the fickle world of popular music suddenly determined that "Can ya dig it?" was no longer a question to which you could confirm your cool, but rather, an invitation to bury one of the finest flavours of seventies funkadelica.
Here's hoping this latest incarnation of Shaft can disinter these wonderful tones from the graveyard of faded fads.
Shaft's instrumental groove is so infectious it even steals the spotlight from Isaac Hayes's deep masculine purr - which isn't to overlook the fact that as songwriter and producer Hayes is actually responsible for the whole fabulous sound. And as marvellous as the instrumentation is, it would be silly to deny the important touches of vitality added via Hayes's microphone.
Better known nowadays for serenading the residents of South Park than singing the praises of the private dick that's a sex machine to all the chicks, Hayes's voice oozes a virility that would have made Queen Victoria randy.
Hayes is a hard act to follow, but he's joined here by some brilliant talent celebrating the joys of funk, soul and R&B in the Old School style.
Every carriage on this extended Soul Train is first-class, but Angie Stone provides the ultimate ride with My Lovin' Will Give You Something. If the freight express-like energy of this funk-rich workout is any indication, I'm sure it would.
Other standouts include R. Scott's lush soul - smooth as Shaft's savoirfaire - on Bad Man and Up And Outta Here, and Summer Rain (Carl Thomas), a triumph of minimalism propelled by shimmering acoustic guitar and gentle showers of vocal harmony.
Classic funk and soul fanciers simply can't go wrong with this disc, and it should go without saying that it's a must have for any single dude desperately seeking to upgrade his sex machine status. No one from this demographic can ever own too much Isaac Hayes. Can ya dig it? Damn right.
Publication date: October 26, 2000